It's always a joy to use cutlery. Just that the right type of cutlery has to be used to relish a meal thoroughly. Over the years, cutlery has evolved to be an essential part of a dining table set-up. Home-cooked meal served on a well-laid dining table with different type of cutlery is a sight to behold.
Type of Cutlery
In the original meaning of the word, cutlery refers to implements used for cutting and eating food. Essentially, it's the knife, fork and spoon which make cutting and eating food easier. There are different types of knives, forks and spoons.
An exhaustive cutlery set, for example can include items like butter knives, soup spoon and seafood fork. Saucers, a set of knives like butcher knives or sharpening knives, carving knife and a wooden storage box to keep the knives may also be part of cutlery.
Even those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen are unaware of the name of different knives that are pulled from the kitchen drawer. Different knives have different purposes and are specifically designed to successfully perform those specific tasks. Choosing the right knife for the right task makes work easier and hassle-free. Striking, chopping, tearing, dicing, spreading, carving, slicing - all depends on the blade of the knife; be it pointed ends, blunt ends, serrated blades etc.
Dull blade: Dinner knives, luncheon knives to cut soft or cooked food.
Serrated knives: To easily cut (saw) through meats.
Non-serrated steak knives: Allows for a cleaner cut.
Knife with pointed tip: The pointed tip helps in cutting fruits, pare fruit.
Knife with broad flat blade: Suitable for eating fish as well as separate fish bones.
Knife with blunt ends: To spread butter, jam or food.
In terms of sizes, there are seven different sizes of knives. Standard sizes are subject to changes by the manufacturers of cutlery. On the dinner table, the knives are placed to the right of the dinner plate.
Dinner knife: You can differentiate a dinner knife from the rest by looking at its size. It's the longest knife, are between 9 1/2" to 10" long. Formal and informal, meals served anytime, dinner knife is used to cut and push food. The only exception is at a dinner when a salad knife is not provided; the dinner knife is substituted for a salad knife to cut an extra-large salad leaf etc.
Steak knife: If steak is part of the menu, the regular dinner knife may be substituted with a steak knife. Steak knife can be an addition to the typical 5 piece setting. Serrated or non-serrated edge to cater to specific steak cuts, steak knives are usually 4 inches to 6 inches.
Luncheon knife: The size is slightly smaller than the dinner knife, the size that appropriately helps balance the proportions of a luncheon plate. It is not mandatory to use a luncheon knife at formal and informal luncheons. A dinner knife is equally accepted.
Fish knife: Fish knife is included in the dining table if a fish is on the menu. The size (8 ¾ inches) of the fish knife is usually small. The blade of the fish knife is wide and the edge is dull. The tips of the fish knife with notched points help in separating the layers of fish and lift the bones onto a plate.
Dessert knife: Much smaller than a dinner knife (8 inches long), the dessert knife is for the last course of the meal. The dessert knife can be used for dessert, fresh or candied fruit. It doubles up as a bread and butter knife and to cut delicious cake. When a slice of cheese is served along with a piece of fruit, a wedge of fig or plum cake, the flavor is at its best when eaten with a dessert knife. The dessert fork usually accompanies a dessert spoon. If so, the fork is used for eating and the spoon as a pusher, depending on the texture of the dessert.
Fruit knife: Pointed tip and a narrow straight or slightly curved blade or a serrated blade, the fruit knife is usually 6 ½ inches to 7 ¼ inches long. On the dining table, the fruit knife is meant to cut and peel fruit before savoring it.
Butter knife: The butter knife is the smallest of the lot (5 to 6 inches long), the edge does not have a sharp point but a rounded point so that it does not tear off the bread when spreading butter. The butter knife or butter spreader is usually kept on the bread plate. In the absence of a butter knife, a dinner knife can be used as butter knife or butter spreader.
Spoons are always placed to the right of the knives. Spoons enable transfer of food, liquid, solid or semi-solid from the platter into the mouth. The spoons derive the prefix either from the food, the shape of the spoon or even the material it's made of.
Teaspoon: For stirring coffee, tea, soups and cereal and even eat food.
Tablespoon: Larger than teaspoons (3 teaspoons measure 1 tablespoon) used for serving food from serving bowls.
Place spoon: Larger than a teaspoon but smaller than a tablespoon, the place spoon is an all-purpose spoon.
Soup spoon: A large or rounded bowl used for consuming soup.
Oval soup spoon: As the name suggests, oval soup spoon have an oval-shaped bowl that is appropriate to consume soup with meat, vegetables, grains and pasta.
Bouillon spoon: Smaller than a soup spoon used for clear or jellied soups.
Coffee spoon: The smallest spoon is used for stirring and adding sugar to coffee or tea.
Dessert spoon: Shallow and bowl shaped used for eating puddings and sweets.
Sundae spoons: Long handles to reach the bottom of sundae glass and eat liquid or semi-liquid foods including ice cream toppings, floats etc.
Latte spoons: Ideal for caffe latte glass and mugs, the long handles are appropriate for stirring frothy coffee, mixing cocktail or other hot drinks like hot chocolates, milk shakes, parfait, sherbets etc.
Fruit spoons: The elongated bowl and a pointed tip of the fruit spoon facilitate cutting fruits and eating fruits like grapefruit, oranges and melons.
Jelly spoon: Long handles facilitate scooping the last bit of jelly.
Demitasse spoon: A demitasse cup is paired with a demitasse spoon to add sugar, if needed, to the content of the cup, coffee made with an equal amount of chocolate.
Chocolate spoon: If hot chocolate is served in a small chocolate cup, any small spoon can be used to stir it, even an after-dinner coffee spoon or a demitasse spoon.
Five o clock spoons: Smaller than a teaspoon used for the before dinner tea or coffee. The spoon derived the name from the fact that tea or coffee was served at five in the evening.
Baby spoon: Meant for a baby, the spoon is accompanied by a baby fork.
The forks are always placed to the left of the dinner plate. Even a simple dining table setting may have different forks, with two, three or four tines or prongs. The two tines are intended to cut the meat. The three and four tined forks have other uses. Compared to four tined forks, the three tined forks are broader. Whether it is three or four tined, all forks are curved at the end to enable in scooping food. Identifying the fork makes it simpler to use. Do remember the rule – work from the outside in.
Forks with extra long prongs(tine): For eating spaghetti, noodles.
Dinner Fork: Reserved for the main course, the dinner fork is roughly seven inches in length.
Salad fork: The six inches long salad fork is relatively large with three prongs that all you to tackle leaves in the salad (except lettuce). The outer tines and the inner tines will not match. The outer tines may be notched and can be wider and slightly longer than the inner tines.
Oyster fork: A small fork with a small handle and three or four thongs suitable for in-shell oysters (usually paired with a knife).
Dessert forks: Similar in appearance to salad forks, measuring six to seven inches in length, the dessert forks are used for eating cakes, pies and pastries that follow dinner. It is placed next to the dessert plate or above the dinner plate.
Fish forks: Smaller than a meat fork, fish forks are used for lifting, holding and serving of fish (usually paired with a knife). You can identify by looking at the tines which will have un-notched tines of uniform width and length.
Sea food forks: If crab, lobster or snails are served, the sea food fork finds place as part of the cutlery. The fork shape is appropriate to scoop out the delicious meat and eat it. The fork serves two purposes, the slim end which is usually double-pronged to pick the sea food and the curved scraper on the other end to scoop out the meat. The fork is also called as crab fork, cocktail fork and lobster fork.
Snail fork: The slender two-pronged snail fork is used to pull or extract the contents of the shell, if in case the snails are served in the shells. If the shells are served without the shell, the meat is eaten with the snail fork.
Strawberries fork: The three narrow tines of the strawberry fork is helpful to pierce fresh strawberries.
Sporks: Sporks have a double-duty, combining the work of fork and knives.
Baby cutlery, vintage cutlery, professional cutlery, Japanese cutlery, plastic cutlery, Restaurant grade cutlery, the list is limitless, so many types of cutlery to suit unique dining needs. Even the cuisine and culture influence the choice and use of cutlery. Broadly, the classification is based on materials used for making cutlery, the design and the style.
Based on materials
Early cutlery was made from flint and stone. New materials and new technologies emerged during the Iron Age. Even then, cutlery usage was limited to make meat easier to handle and to enable eating some items. Only during the 17th century, cutlery gained wider significance, becoming a must-have in every household. The cutlery in use today is similar to those used during the 19th century, the time when Sheffield in England started making stainless steel knives, forks and spoons. Of the different materials, stainless steel cutlery continues to be the best and the most preferred type of cutlery.
Stainless steel type of cutlery
An 18/10 stainless steel cutlery refers to the percentage of chromium (18) and nickel (10) content that goes into making of the cutlery. A strong metal with elegant appeal, stain resistant, damp resistant and easy to care, stainless steel type of cutlery is a must-have dining ware in any household especially for casual use. It is best to have two sets one reserved for everyday use and the other for dining with guests. Break resistant, durable and trendy features of stainless steel type of cutlery makes for a perfect gift for any special occasion like weddings, festivals or house-warming celebrations.
There are many reasons to buy silver cutlery. Besides the shining white appeal, the metal does not react with most foods and is also stain and corrosion resistant. Eating in silver cutlery has health benefits too. Silver fights germs because silver is poison to germs.
A luxury possession, beautiful silver cutlery is usually reserved for very special occasions. Antique silver cutlery is handed down through the generations thus making it a treasured family heirloom. If you wish to purchase your own silver set, there are options to consider which includes sterling silver cutlery and silver-plated cutlery.
Sterling silver cutlery: Real silver cutlery is made of pure silver which is soft and not stable. Hence, the closest alternative is sterling silver cutlery. An authentic, sterling silver cutlery must be made of at least 92.5% silver. To make it stronger, 7.5% of other alloys mainly copper will be added. The blades of the knives are made of stainless steel. Every sterling silver cutlery is handcrafted or hand finished and individually hallmarked. Sterling silver cutlery is luxurious yet easy to clean as its dishwasher-friendly.
Silver plated cutlery: EPNS (Electro Plated Nickel silver cutlery), EP, silver on copper are cutlery with very less silver with a base metal like copper, brass, white metal or nickel. Silver plated cutlery is an alternative to rich, beautiful and pricey sterling silver cutlery.
There are many reasons to buy plastic cutlery, especially the bio-degradable environment- friendly plastic cutlery. Most suitable when hard pressed for time to display other type of cutlery, the plastic disposable cutlery is very handy. Available in different sizes, small, medium and large, basic colors as well many transparent forms, in varied shapes, plastic cutlery is opted sudden get-together at home, to eat meals during picnics, for meals on-the go etc. The patterns almost mimic the traditional cutlery patterns.
Eco-friendly bio-based cutlery is made from biodegradable materials. Ceramics, sugar cane and carbon fall under this category. Without damaging the environment, bio based cutlery can be recycled and reprocessed.
Based on designs
The design of cutlery influences the durability, maintenance and pricing. Bead cutlery, Grecian cutlery and Kings Cutlery are prized cutlery possessions. There are only three classifications - classic, contemporary and traditional.
Classic: Simple shapes with little or nil decorations.
Contemporary: Geometric, Greek designs and modern art.
Traditional: Flowers and scrollwork.
Baby cutlery: Considering their tender hands, baby cutlery has soft handles and is carved to give a smooth feel.
Combination cutlery: Two materials are used, one for the bowl and the other for the handle, for example gleaming bowl with exotic wood handle.
Choosing type of cutlery
There are few things for consideration before buying a type of cutlery. Few tips to help you in owing a type of cutlery include:
- Decide on how big a set you require. Always buy an entire set.
- Before planning an exotic menu, ensure related accessories are available to go with the menu.
- Go for basic cutlery, preferably in stainless steel with six or seven pieces which may include a small knife and fork for starter courses, a large knife and fork for the main course, a large soup spoon and a small spoon for dessert.
- Seven piece cutlery is complete with a teaspoon.
- Buffer or stock an extra few in the same pattern, preferably for six persons.
- Always choose a design that is easily available. Augmentation becomes easier.
- Protect your cutlery. Follow instructions provided for cutlery maintenance.